Northwest, Air Canada Airlines Customers With Canceled Tickets May Have Rights Under Federal Credit Law

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Consumers holding tickets for canceled Northwest or Air Canada airline flights may be able to protect themselves under the federal Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA), according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you purchased tickets with a major credit card and the flight was canceled by the airline, you may be able to use the "billing error" protections of the FCBA to avoid paying for tickets that can't be used.

These are the steps to follow:

  • Send a written notice to the card issuer. It must be sent to the address listed on your bill for billing error inquiries.
  • Include in the notice the following information:
    • Your name and account number;

    • A statement that you are withholding payment (or requesting a refund, if you have already paid) because the bill contains a billing error; and

    • A description of the error, with dollar amount and reference number of the ticket transaction. Example: "Northwest canceled my flight, No. XYZ, on August XX, 1998, and will not honor my ticket, which appears as Number YYY for $ZZZ on my bill."
  • Keep a photocopy of the notice and send the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested. Drug stores, libraries and post offices often have photocopy machines you can use.
  • Be sure to mail the notice in time to reach the card issuer within 60 days after the first bill containing the error was mailed to you.
  • Keep the ticket in a safe place. You may be asked at a later date by the card issuer to provide it as evidence that you held a ticket on a canceled flight.

The credit card issuer has 30 days to acknowledge the dispute in writing, unless the dispute is resolved by that time. At the latest, the dispute must be resolved within two billing cycles or 90 days, whichever is less.

Under the FCBA, if a dispute is resolved in the consumer's favor because a service was not delivered as promised, the credit card issuer must credit the consumer's account.

Even if it's been more than 60 days since the first bill for the tickets was sent, consumers can still send a notice to the card issuer. Consumers who have not yet paid the disputed charge may have other rights under the FCBA.

Copies of a free brochure that explains consumers' rights under the Fair Credit Billing Act, "Fair Credit Billing," are available from the FTC's web site at and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
David Medine
Division of Credit Practices

Carole Reynolds
Division of Credit Practices